Tag Archives: TLC Book Tours

“S.E.C.R.E.T.” by L. Marie Adeline

S.E.C.R.E.T.Title: S.E.C.R.E.T.
Author: L. Marie Adeline
ISBN: 9780385346436
Pages: 288
Release date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Broadway
Genre: Fiction (erotic)
Format: eBook (ARC)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 4 out of 5

It’s been a long time since Cassie Robichaud has felt desired. She was estranged from her alcoholic husband when he crashed his car and died five years ago, and they never really had a healthy relationship in the first place. Since then, her romantic life has sputtered and died.

So when Cassie spots two lovebirds at her waitressing job, it’s no wonder she feels pangs of envy. And when the woman leaves behind a little journal, can you blame Cassie for peeking?

Was I lonely? Yes, of course. But I was also slowly shutting down parts of myself, seemingly for good, like a large factory going dark, sector by sector. I was only thirty-five and I had never had really great, mind-blowing, liberating, luscious sex, the kind that notebook seemed to allude to. . . . At home, my body was a warm place for the cat to sleep on. How had this happened? How had this become my life?

Cassie’s curiosity leads her to discover a secret society, the mission of which is to satisfy the deepest fantasies of women like Cassie. (What luck!) S.E.C.R.E.T. aims to provide Safe, Erotic, Compelling, Romantic, Ecstatic, and Transformative experiences for the women who are selected to join. Cassie’s life, which had seemed so static, changes almost overnight, and she is set on an irreversible path to self-discovery and joy.

Talk about reading for pleasure!

I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Gray, but I have read a lot about it. This erotic story succeeds where Fifty seemed to fail: it chronicles the story of a woman who is empowered by sexual encounters with handsome, respectful men, showing sex scenes that are both titillating and safe.

The writing is decent, with a few well-worn cliches that pop up here and there:

Still listening to the conversation on the phone, he gave me a smile that only people born with charisma to burn know how to give. It literally changed the temperature in the room.

I’m admittedly new to erotica, and there was one ting that kept bothering me: I kept waiting for something bad to happen. Perhaps my tastes skew too dark, but usually in stories when it’s going well for the heroine, a dark stranger appears and destroys everything. Instead, a cheerful woman shows up and rebuilds everything. I couldn’t help feeling a sense of foreboding. When would the other shoe drop? When the plot does twist unexpectedly, then, it caught me off guard, which I always like–I love being surprised by a book!

Quote of Note: “[F]ear can’t be released without our permission. Since we ourselves generate it, only we can let it go.”

Interested? Read it for yourself! Purchase S.E.C.R.E.T. at your local bookstore or on Amazon (Kindle edition available).

I receive a very, very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Don’t just take my word for it. Check out what other reviewers have said:
February 4: Romancing the Book
February 4: Love to Read for Fun
February 5: RTBookReviews.com  Q&A/giveaway
February 6: From the TBR Pile
February 7: Passionate Encounters
February 11: Feeling Fictional
February 12: Smexy Books
February 13: The Romanceaholic  Spotlight/giveaway
February 14: Luxury Reading
February 15: Babbling About Books, and More!
February 19: A Chick Who Reads
February 20: Sara’s Organized Chaos
February 21: Seaside Book Nook
February 22: Love, Romance, Passion
February 25: Book Lovin’ Mamas
February 26: All I Want and More
February 27: Chaos is a Friend of Mine
TBD: Close Encounters with the Night Kind

“Butterfly’s Child” by Angela Davis-Gardner

Butterfly's ChildTitle: Butterfly’s Child
Author: Angela Davis-Gardner
ISBN: 9780385340953
Pages: 384
Release date: April 10, 2012
Publisher: Dial Press
Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Quote of Note: “The young didn’t understand time, how it rushed by, fast as that little river.”

Angela ­Davis-Gardner’s novel, Butterfly’s Child, begins where Puccini’s opera, “Madame Butterfly,” leaves off. Frank Pinkerton, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, has returned to Japan with Kate, his new wife. Cio-Cio-san (Butterfly), his mistress, sees her chance at simultaneous revenge and redemption. She commits suicide, and Benji’s world changes in a moment.

Pinkerton and Kate agree to take Benji back to their farm in Illinois. In a vain attempt to save face, they claim that they adopted the orphaned half-Japanese half-American child, who bears a striking resemblance to his father.

Frank becomes distant in his grief for Butterfly, leaving a jealous and bewildered (but dutiful) Kate to care for Benji. Benji finds himself in limbo, neither fully Japanese nor fully American. His search for identity propels the narrative forward, through some surprising twists and turns.

The book’s blurb encapsulates well the power of the novel:

A sweeping portrait of a changing American landscape at the end of the nineteenth century, and of a Japanese culture irrevocably altered by foreign influence, Butterfly’s Child explores people in transition—from old worlds to new customs, heart’s desires to vivid realities—in an epic tale that plays out as both a conclusion to and an inspiration for one of the most famous love stories ever told.

The story works for those, like me, who have never seen the play. The novel opens with a synopsis of the opera, and the rest of the story flows from there.

Davis-Gardner gives names and voices to the innocent people who are most affected by Butterfly’s and Pinkerton’s dramatic gestures of love and sacrifice. Kate and Benji are well-developed and sympathetic characters.

As Kate and Frank grow further apart, Kate feels increasingly disconnected from reality and at odds with herself: “Her hair was tangled but her face was the same, as if she were the same woman.” Prickly at first, Kate becomes a very endearing character, but she cannot survive the fracturing of her world as neatly as Benji, who holds dear the memory of his mother’s devotion.

Davis-Gardner’s prose is luscious, and the scenes she paints are rich in detail, as when Benji returns to Japan as a young man:

The morning was already warm and perfumed by the flowers that spilled here and there over the stone walls. A pretty young woman in kimono dumping a pail of water in the street smiled up at him, and he felt a surge of happiness; this was the beginning of his real life.

I enjoyed the book quite a bit, and look forward to reading more from Davis-Gardner.

Interested? Read it for yourself! Buy Butterfly’s Child from an independent bookstore or Amazon (Kindle edition available).

I receive a very, very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Don’t just take my word for it. Check out what other reviewers have said:
Col Reads
Dolce Bellezza
Broken Teepee
Life in Review
She Knows
Unabridged Chick
Nomad Reader
Luxury Reading
Sophisticated Dorkiness
My Bookshelf
Bookfoolery and Babble
Peeking Between the Pages
Lit Endeavors

“Whatever You Love” by Louise Doughty

Whatever You LoveTitle: Whatever You Love
Author: Louise Doughty
ISBN: 9780062094667
Pages: 384
Release date: March 2012 (paperback)
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Whatever You Love, Louise Doughty’s sixth novel and a finalist for the Orange Prize, begins with every mother’s worst nightmare.

Laura Needham knows why the police officers are standing at her door, but her mind seizes up with shock regardless. For the first time, she had allowed her nine-year-old daughter, Betty, to walk home from school without her. Betty, the police now inform Laura, was killed in a hit-and-run accident.

As Laura later mourns beside her daughter’s lifeless body at the hospital, she clings to alternate scenarios in which Betty is alive:

I wonder how long I can keep this going, if it is possible to live with this alternate narrative for the rest of my life. I know—dear God, already I know—that this alternative is only mine as long as I am alone. Already, I am in love with alone.

Sequestered with her grief, Laura looks back on the last few years of her life, which, she slowly reveals, were less than serene. Laura and David Needham had been happy at first, and the birth of their daughter Betty had signified a high point in their relationship. As their marriage began to unravel, however, Laura had become pregnant with their second child, a boy. Rather than cement their crumbling relationship, Roos’s birth only served to drive a wedge between Laura and David. Soon thereafter, David’s unrelenting infidelity landed him with another woman, Chloe, who didn’t waste much time getting pregnant herself.

Laura was left alone, clinging to the remains of her once-happy life in a small, windswept English town by the sea. Her children—especially Betty, who reminded Laura of all of the joy her marriage had once held—were her only source of comfort.

Now, the loss of Betty seems to have driven Laura over the edge. Roos, her son, is all but forgotten. Laura rarely eats or sleeps, subsisting instead upon thoughts of revenge. She begins looking for her daughter’s accidental killer, and she vows: “I am going to find out what you love, then whatever it is, I am going to track it down and I am going to take it away from you.”

Laura’s thoughts are also clouded with bitterness toward Chloe, David’s new wife—who seems to have stepped into Laura’s shoes of dutiful wife and mother both naturally and happily. But Laura won’t relinquish those roles so easily.

Laura moves from grief-saturated remembrances of joyful times to paranoid thoughts of revenge against those who have stolen her happiness. The novel takes on a dreamlike quality, slowly building to a bizarre twist. It’s a story of a mother’s grief, but also her dreams of redemption. Laura seeks reassurance that she was a good wife and mother—and she will stop at nothing to get it.

Although she seems to find the redemption she seeks, the ending didn’t ring true for me. It felt too neat, too fantastical, and it made me wonder if Laura got her wish for an alternate reality—if she stepped far enough back into her mind to construct an entirely different outcome of her own story. However, taken at face value, the book’s ending was puzzling and unsatisfying.

Despite my confusion over the ending, I enjoyed Doughty’s writing. Her voice is strong, laced with nostalgia and a kind of dreaminess that makes reading the book feel like moving through clouds of thick cotton.

Throughout the story, Doughty draws clear parallels between pain and love. When Laura sees Betty in every child she encounters, Laura feels liberated from her grief in an unexpected way. “[Betty] must have loved me so much, to give me this gift—to sacrifice herself so that I don’t need to be frightened any more,” Laura marvels. Ultimately, she discovers that “love built on pain” is the only kind that endures, for “whatever we love can be taken away from us at any moment but the loss of what we love belongs to us forever.”

Interested? Read it for yourself! Buy Whatever You Love from an independent bookstore or Amazon (Kindle edition).

I receive a very, very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Don’t just take my word for it. Check out what other reviewers have said:
Lit and Life
Book Hooked Blog
Broken Teepee
A Bookish Way of Life
Life in Review
The Lost Entwife
Peeking Between the Pages
Walking With Nora
Kritters Ramblings
The House of the Seven Tails

“More Like Her” by Liza Palmer

More LIke HerTitle: More Like Her
Author: Liza Palmer
ISBN: 9780062007469
Pages: 336
Release date: April 2012
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 4 out of 5

“I’m not the girl men choose,” Frances begins in the first chapter of Liza Palmer’s More Like Her. “I’m the girl who’s charming and funny and then drives home alone wondering what she did wrong. I’m the girl who meets someone halfway decent and then fills in the gaps of his character with my own imagination, only to be shocked when he’s not the man I thought he was. I’m the girl who hides who she really is for fear I’ll fall short.”

Frances Reid, a speech pathologist at Markham, a private school, is riddled with insecurity after breaking up with fellow teacher Ryan. But after acknowledging her much-maligned flaws, Frances is ready to lose herself in the bustle of a new semester: new students, new challenges, and a new headmistress.

Emma Dunham seems to have stepped from the pages of Vogue. Everything about her is perfect—except for her inescapably awkward husband, Jamie. Emma’s perfect appearance, education and manners can’t cover up the fact that her dude is a serious loser—and that Emma has blinded herself to his flaws.

As Frances grows closer to Emma and learns of her unhappiness, she begins embarking on a relationship of her own with the hunky and humble Sam. Of course, all is not as it seems with Sam either—you don’t make it to your sexy mid-thirties and stay single without some scarring, after all.

But this isn’t your typical awkward-nerd-finds-love-in-arms-of-hot-Southern-gentleman romance. (Although it’s that, too.) There is something much deeper and more sinister lurking in the hallways of Markham. When disaster hits, Frances will discover that she is stronger than she thought—and she will learn that settling for the “perfect” life can end in tragedy.

Palmer’s fourth novel balances between snark and seriousness well. On the surface, the story is about an insecure woman striving for a perfect life, but it’s also about the sacrifices we make to keep up appearances, the dangers of settling for second-best, and the importance of living life to the fullest.

The tragedy of the book centers around a school shooting, a topic that is on everyone’s mind lately. But More Like Her goes beyond the seemingly random act of violence that shreds the lives of victims. It’s also about the strength and power of the individuals who fight back against their would-be murderers, and it’s a valuable examination of the mark that violence leaves—both on perpetrators and victims.

That being said, More Like Her is also funny and insightful, as when Frances recounts her first time alone with Sam:

As the silence permeates the space, I realize that it’s that terrifying point right after you’ve met someone when you wish you could talk to them for days. There’s so much you want to learn about them. But you have to hold yourself back from asking questions you simply don’t have the right to know the answers to yet. You are acutely aware that you barely know him.

Frances, terrified of showing her true self in a relationship, begins to plumb her own depths. “I’ve been overly available, sickeningly sweet and forever enabling all in the name of being ‘liked,’” she realizes. “I’ve compromised myself.”

Sam presents her with the chance to change–to date someone who challenges her and makes her better, not to date the man she thinks she deserves. But her relationship with Sam offers more than simply the chance at romance. After thinking about all that Sam has brought out of her, Frances says, “It comes to me that the person I really want to know about is me.”

More Like Her is more than a tragedy and certainly more than a romance. It’s one woman’s candid exploration of herself when she realizes she has nothing to lose. Tempered by tragedy, the book is ultimately uplifting.

Interested? Read it for yourself! Buy More Like Her from an independent bookstore or Amazon (Kindle edition).

I receive a very, very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Don’t just take my word for it. Check out what other reviewers on the tour have said:
A Bookworm’s World
Iwriteinbooks’ blog
Kritters Ramblings
 A Musing Reviews
 Seaside Book Nook
Walking With Nora
A Bookish Way of Life
A Soul Unsung
 Into the Hall of Books
Knitting and Sundries
The Book Chick
Peeking Between the Pages

“Losing Clementine” by Ashley Ream

Title: Losing Clementine
Author: Ashley Ream
ISBN: 9780062093639
Pages: 306
Release date: March 2012
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 5 out of 5

Clementine has made up her mind: In 30 days, she’s going to end it. Kick the bucket. Buy the farm. Push up daisies.

That gives her an entire month to put her life in order. Because she’s resolved not to leave a mess… not like her mother did.

So Clementine’s finishing up her artwork, finding a new home for her cat, firing her assistant, and putting an end to her romantic entanglements. But as she tries to put her life in order, her past unravels and she discovers her life is not what it seemed.

Clementine is a deeply endearing character with an irreverent sense of humor, as when she describes one of the neighborhoods she drives through:

“This Mathis family lived on a wide street lined with parked cars and jacaranda trees that dropped their showy purple flowers onto windshields, driveways, sidewalks, and lawn furniture the way a stripper sheds day-old glitter.”

But her sense of humor doesn’t cover up–doesn’t even try to hide–her pain. The long-ago deaths of her mom and sister continue to haunt her, and she can’t move past her fear and sadness:

“That was my greatest fear, and more than twenty years of therapy hadn’t been able to allay it. What if I got so sad I did something that didn’t make sense to other people? What if I did what she did? What if I was dangerous?”

Ashley Ream’s voice is so assured, it’s hard to believe this is her debut as a novelist. Despite the dark subject matter she’s dealing with, she manages to make the book light and laugh-out-loud funny without losing sight of the serious implications of Clementine’s decision.

In between humorous asides, Clementine offers insight into the pain of bipolar disorder:

“The thing about being crazy is that you know you’re crazy even when you can’t do anything about it. You know how you look to other people, and the shame of it is almost worse than the thing itself.”

I’m usually pretty good at predicting a book’s plot twists, but I was so involved in this book, I was taken completely unaware by the big reveal. Ream’s a great storyteller, and the book flew by for me; I was sorry to stop reading and lose Clementine, even if I can pick up the book and find her again later.

Quote of Note:

“Thirty years was a long time for memories to fade, until what you had was memories of memories. They weren’t always reliable. It was like a game of telephone you played with yourself.”

Interested? Read it for yourself! Buy Losing Clementine from an independent bookstore or Amazon (Kindle edition).

I receive a very, very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Don’t just take my word for it. Check out what other reviewers on the tour have been saying!

“Maisie Dobbs” by Jacqueline Winspear

Title: Maisie Dobbs
Series: Maisie Dobbs, #1
Author: Jacqueline Winspear
ISBN: 9780142004333
Pages: 320
Release date: May 25, 2004
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Maisie Dobbs is setting up a new business in 1929 London, and she’s got her work cut out for her. She’s putting her years of private investigative training to work and opening up shop as P.I.

Maisie offers her clients a different service than they may expect—indeed, than they think they want. She relies upon intuition, meditation, psychology, and a good dose of common sense. When Christopher Davenham contacts her about a new case, Maisie cuts to the heart of his unease after a single conversation: “He talks about pride when it’s his heart that’s aching.”

She agrees to investigate where Dunham’s wife, Celia, has been going during the day, and when she does, she uncovers a series of wounds—both Celia’s and her own.

Maisie is an ideal investigator: “She had spent much of her life out of bounds, living and speaking where, according to some, she had no business.”

Maisie began working as a servant from a young age, but her intellect and ambition make her stand out from the rest of the household—not always in a good way. As Enid, another servant, tells her:

“[W]hat you’ve got to remember, Dobbsie, is that there’s them upstairs, and there’s us downstairs. There’s no middle, never was. So the likes of you and me can’t just move up a bit, if that’s what you think. We’ve got to jump, Dobbsie, and bloody ‘igh to boot!”

Jump Maisie does. Her employer recognizes Maisie’s intelligence and aptitude to work hard, and introduces her to her mentor, a private investigator.

I expected this to be a somewhat unusual detective novel. But even with that in mind, I was surprised about several of the book’s turns.

I learned a lot about class differences in pre- and post-WWI England; in a way, it reminded me of Downton Abbey. I was also surprised by Maisie’s wisdom and her ability to distance herself from a problem in order to solve it. There were several passages that I underlined to savor later:

- “[O]nly when we have respect for time will we ever have learned something of the art of living.”

- There was something healing in this ritual of making a comfortable place for the dead.

- “Allow the past to have a voice. Then it will be stilled.”

Yet I was also intrigued by how many layers there are to Maisie. She’s a complex character, and I found myself wanting to read more about her. Luckily, there are several more books in this series!

Interested? Read it for yourself! Buy Maisie Dobbs from an independent bookstore or Amazon (Kindle edition).

I receive a very, very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Don’t just take my word for it. Check out what other reviewers on the tour have been saying!

“The Lantern” by Deborah Lawrenson

Title: The Lantern
Author: Deborah Lawrenson
ISBN: 9780062192974
Pages: 400
Release date: February 2012
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Literary fiction
Format: ARC (paperback)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 4 out of 5

Eve, a young translator only a few years out of college, already feels trapped in the turns her life has taken. Everything changes when she meets Dom. She leaves her life in England behind as they set out on an extended, dream-like vacation that includes buying an estate in Provence.

When Eve first arrives in the south of France with Dom, it seems that they have discovered paradise. But as they settle into an effortless new rhythm together, they find ghosts from their pasts are dismissed less readily.

Eve’s true name remains a mystery; “Eve” is a nickname given her by Dom when they first meet. Her narrative is intertwined with the stories of a past resident of the Provencal mansion, Benedicte, whose identity is also obscured behind clouds of nostalgia and regret for much of the tale. The opacity of both women’s stories—the things they leave out, the explanations left unspoken—serve to heighten the central mysteries of the book.

Why have the ghosts of Benedicte’s past come back to haunt her as she lives out her old age in her family home? What happened to Rachel, Dom’s ex-wife, the specter that slowly drives a wedge into his relationship with Eve?

Like Dom’s haunting piano solos, Eve’s story slowly gains in force until it reaches a powerful crescendo. At the same time, Benedicte’s history expands like the delicate and complex scents in her sister Marthe’s famous perfumes. The two storylines come together in an unexpected and well-orchestrated climax.

The Lantern is poetic and gorgeously atmospheric, peppered with appealing descriptions of the lovely land Eve and Benedicte inhabit: “Down here, on the southern rim of the country, out of the mistral’s slipstream, the evening drops as viscous liquid: slow and heavy and silent.” Lawrenson’s prose is as luscious and vivid as the landscape it seeks to capture.

The gothic novel is based on Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, a tale to which Eve returns again and again. Eve, like Rebecca’s narrator, is a mostly unnamed character who finds herself caught between an intriguing man and his first wife in the south of France. “The story has an emotional pull and a truth all its own,” Eve comments, and Lawrenson seems to have felt a similar attraction; many of the details of Rebecca’s story mirror Rachel’s.

Likewise, Benedicte finds parallels to literature in her life. Andre, her onetime fiancé, is like a figure from both classic and modern Provencal stories, the messages of which were deceptively simple:

have faith that the gods of nature will prevail, faith in hard labor on the land, and celebrate the determination of the peasant and the artisan to redeem the harshness and transform it into beauty and a symbol of that that endurance.

Of course, Benedicte finds, such a simplistic reduction of a man can only be fictional. Such men exist only in stories; real life is much more complex, as Eve is discovering alongside Benedicte’s revelations.

Literary allusions abound in the novel, partly because of Eve’s bookishness. She’s an inveterate reader searching for the perfect French story to translate. Her awareness of the stories one constructs about oneself and others plays an important role in the narrative, giving it an acute self-consciousness at times. Eve observes:

We all tell stories about ourselves, some repeated so often that we can honestly believe them to be the truth. . . . And what narrative had I invented for my life with Dom? There were plenty, I now realized. Nothing important at first, but that’s the thing about stories—like lies, they start small.

Her illusions are shattered as she unravels the truth behind Dom’s carefully armored past.

Sight is another important element of the novel. “Sight offers such a powerful and immediate understanding that an image always seems more persuasive, a proof of what was once seen,” Eve says. “We believe the evidence of our eyes.” Benedicte is even more attuned to the illusion of appearance. “Change is not always visible, as the turn of the seasons is, or the natural process of aging,” she comments, concluding, “We are so many people in one lifetime.”

My quibbles with the book are relatively minor. I would have preferred that the ending had left more to the imagination, and I was also disappointed by an unexpected anti-abortion message in one of the character’s subplots.

However, I enjoyed this book a great deal. The tone is as sunbaked and sprawling as the Provencal hills, building a suspense that takes its time to unravel but is ultimately captivating. By building on du Maurier’s Rebecca, Lawrenson has constructed a story that is at once timeless and modern.

Interested? Read it for yourself! Buy The Lantern from an independent bookstore or Amazon (Kindle edition).

I receive a very, very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Don’t just take my word for it. Check out what other reviewers on the tour have been saying:

March 1: Books and Movies
March 7: Knitting and Sundries
March 12: Stiletto Storytime
March 13: Picky Girl
March 15: Kahakai Kitchen
March 16: Take Me Away
March 21: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
March 28: The House of the Seven Tails
March 30: Books, Books Everywhere!
TBD: Reflections of a Bookaholic